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4.02  ·  Rating details ·  485 ratings  ·  92 reviews
From Donald Crews, the Caldecott Honor artist and award-winning creator of Bigmama'sFreight Train, and many other classic picture books for young children, comes "a superb example of the picture book as theater; a suspense thriller for younger audiences" (Horn Book starred review).

It's getting late following a day of play, So seven children decide to take the shortcut ho
Paperback, 32 pages
Published September 20th 1996 by Greenwillow Books (first published October 23rd 1992)
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Average rating 4.02  · 
Rating details
 ·  485 ratings  ·  92 reviews

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Oct 06, 2008 rated it really liked it
Level- Elementary
This is a book that I use as a mentor text in writers' workshop. It uses great descriptive language and is great when teaching personal narrative. My students love the sounds of the train whistle and train track. The book Big Momma is another great story written by Don Crews. I am going to do an author study this year with some other Crews books.
Jim Erekson
Feb 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
One of the best doesn't-preach-a-message, let children be who they are and do what they do kind of book. I often use this book to teach about complementary illustrations, which lay out a different narrative on their own than the one I get from the words.

Mostly this reminds me of spending time at my Grandma and Grandpa's house at the mouth of the Big Cottonwood Canyon, where we would take off down to the creek by the Old Mill for hours on end. Unsupervised play wins!

This gets five because I own
Feb 27, 2020 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: parents reading with their children
A cautionary tale about why you should mind your elders when they tell you not to do something because it's dangerous. ...more
Kellee Moye
Read on IG by Mac Barnett 5/19/20
Feb 03, 2018 rated it liked it
"The Shortcut, " written and illustrated by Donald Crews is a book about a group of brothers and sisters who decide to take the short way home by walking on the train tracks. This book won the HBF award and was reviewed by Publisher's Weekly, School Library Journal and Children's Literature. I think that this book would be appropriate for children in kindergarten - first grade. I would use this book to teach students about making predictions because the book is packed with suspense. As the story ...more
Alicia Biddle
Sep 28, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I love to use this book to introduce the power of onomatopoeia and making predictions to my students! I have used this book for a number of years with middle school aged students and they love it! The book itself is very simplistic, the story is about a group of young kids, presumably siblings, who are trying to get home before dark and decide to take a shortcut home. The shortcut involves them following and walking on the train tracks, which turns out to be a dangerous and not such a good idea. ...more
Shanna Gonzalez
Nov 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: children-00-04
Here is another excellent simple book for young train lovers by the inimitable Donald Crews. This book, unlike his more sedate offerings, is quite a thriller. The story starts out serenely when a group of children, hurrying home late, decide to take the forbidden train tracks home. They think all will be well until one of them hears the whistle of an unscheduled train and they must decide which way to run to get out of the way in time. Written with consummate skill, the tale builds in tension as ...more
Jan 03, 2010 rated it really liked it
The cover largely sums this book up. A group of kids, coming home at night, think they'll take the shortcut home. You know - the shortcut? Over the train tracks? Sure, they're not supposed to, but nobody will ever know, right? What could POSSIBLY go wrong?

This is apparently based upon an actual incident from Mr. Crews' life. I can believe it - the kids in the book laugh and giggle and joke and do just about everything *but* concentrate on getting home safe and sound. (That's how they ended up so
Nicole Hoag
Dec 02, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Genre: Children's Picture Book (MAISA Mentor Text)
My third graders really enjoyed this book, and were able to remember and point out different parts when we would revisit the story for lessons.
Feature: The words used to show sounds in the book gradually get larger as the train comes closer... This is a great book for pre-teaching to add sound words to their writing.The book also shows that authors can play with the formatting and positioning of the words to appeal to readers. We used this book i
Alisha Williams
Sep 20, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-book
This was a good story to get children thinking about their lives. A time when they did something they knew they shouldn't of, any shortcuts they took. Different things. Good book. Also has sound words. ...more
Michelle Nero
Sep 02, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A short text that is packed with so much! Thrilling and suspenseful. The ending is powerful.
Oct 22, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pb
This Donald Crews book had many words, uncharacteristically. I enjoyed that the kids learned a lesson. This is helpful in my area where there are many train tracks.
May 30, 2016 rated it really liked it
Not sure why I like this one. The message is so ominous. It resounds in a way with work ethic and doing what you are told and with the secrets of adolescence contained in peer groups.
Rachel Smith
Sep 06, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Crews’ works from his past childhood experiences are charming. I appreciate the adventurous spirit in the book which then leads into the understanding of consequences and caution that all children experience. I would likely use this book to discuss consequences of actions with children as well as how to be safe when walking somewhere new or even somewhere familiar.
Sharla Bazen
Sep 25, 2017 rated it really liked it
Genre: Children's Picture Book (MAISA Mentor Text)

Unique feature: The sound words in the book gradually get larger as the train comes closer... This is a great book for pre-teaching to add sound words to their writing. The book also shows that as the author you can play with the formatting and positioning of the words to appeal to your readers more.

Grade level suggested 1-2
Nov 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
This story reminds me of something I would have done growing up. Love how the children knew they should hurry up along this shortcut, but instead, took their own sweet time. They soon find themselves trapped on the tracks with a train quickly approaching. They find away to escape the ordeal, but were too embarrassed to tell anyone what had happened...just like I would have done.
Whitney Leanhart
Sep 03, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: lesson
I loved reading this book and was wondering how it ends. These kids were on the train tracks trying to take a shortcut home. Then a train starts heading their way. This is a simple reminder that children should listen to what their parents say because they have reason for it.
Oct 01, 2019 rated it liked it

by Donald Crews

The children are running late going home, they take a shortcut that they were warned before not to use because the train tracks are not safe. The children learn an important lesson about following advice.
Aug 09, 2020 rated it liked it
I love the inclusion of all the sound words. I enjoyed the multiple spreads of the train. I’m more iffy about the story. Seems a little scary for the intended audience, although it does deliver an important message in a non-preach way.
Carly Hales
Feb 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
This is a scary story about kids who almost get hit by a train. It actually scared my kids a bit but in a really good way. The whole time they were saying "that isn't safe!" and then when it was over they wanted me to read it again. ...more
Jo Oehrlein
Jan 28, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: picture-books
A warning about playing/walking on railroad tracks through a story where a group of kids gets a scare.
Mrs. Ruigrok
Mar 22, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This would be a great mentor text for teaching narrative. Great descriptive words, illustrations and an important message too!
Jun 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A little old for our kids, and a bit scary for some of them. But beautifully told and illustrated. A great example of how an extremely simple plot is often all that's needed for a picture book. ...more
Mary T
Jul 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: pic-favorites
My boys LOVE the action and suspense of this book, especially when my oldest son was into trains.
Rosa Cline
Oct 22, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: kids, 2019, baby-siblings, 2018
The author took a memory from his own past with his siblings and wrote a children's book from it. It's very easy to read, and illustrations are great. so is good for any age reader-listener. ...more
This just feels so real. The little things that kids do that they know are bad ideas, but they survive, and then they never tell anyone. Childhood.
Apr 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
There's nothing particularly remarkable about this under-the-radar Donald Crews offering that I recently unearthed from a box of childhood mementos, except that twenty five years ago my mom used to read it to my brother and I endlessly at our request - building up the drama with each page's KLAK-KLAK-KLAKITY-KLAK - and for that reason it‘ll always have a special spot on my bookshelf and in my heart. ...more
Aug 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
A+ book about a gaggle of small children terrorized by large, monstrous train. WHOO-WHOO indeed.
Kristin Nelson
Mar 05, 2020 rated it did not like it
This picture book of kids taking a shortcut along the railroad tracks was disturbing to me.
Jul 11, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Very cute story where you know what’s going to happen but it’s still exciting. This would be a well done, short film or cartoon.
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Donald Crews (born August 30, 1938) is an American illustrator and writer of children's picture books. In 2015, the American Library Association (ALA) honored him with the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal, recognizing his lasting contribution to children's literature. Common subjects of his include modern technology (especially travel vehicles), and childhood memories. His stories often include few huma ...more

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